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I'll start by saying I'm confused. At this point I think I've read / watched so many different things I'm lost. I understand this that there are many different ways to get this done but nothing I've read has brought me to the point where I feel comfortable making a decision on how I'm going to wire up my layout. Based on what I have read I gather wiring the tracks should be separated from wiring turnouts and lights. In my previous layout I never made it that far as I had to tear it down and only went as far as a main bus with feeders to the track.

My current layout is N scale (N Scale Baltimore / Washington Rail Road | Model Train Forum). I have an NCE Power Cab and the NCE DB5 Booster which I purchased for my previous layout.

1. Although I don't plan on moving the layout I would like to to be able to take it apart and only have to disconnect one or two wires between each module.

2. My thought is run a primary bus wire (14 gauge - I don't know why I picked that but it seems like many others have) and then a sub bus (16 gauge) and then the feeder wires (22 gauge).

3. For the switches (motors) and lights I've read they should be separated and than an old power?

From an actual wiring perspective I've read on here and other places about using terminal blocks where all wires go to that block and the primary bus lines runs into the block and out of the block to the next one. Each section would have it's own block. I feel like that's a lot of wires going back to the same place and could get crazy quickly.

I've also seen people talk about running a main bus and then using the T connectors to run a feeder directly from the main bus. I did this on my previous layout and it worked out great but I'd prefer to not tap into the main bus and that also means if I have to move the layout and take it apart i'm going to have to cut my main bus.

I saw these on amazon and i'm wondering if it would work or if anyone has used them before. (XHF 50 Pcs 222-413 Conductor Combination Compact Wire Connectors 3 Port Fast Connection Terminal 28-12 AWG Suitable for Multiple Types of Wires - - Amazon.com) If I used those I would assume that I could connect a primary bus wire in there and a sub bus and have one left open. It looks like you can disconnect a wire which would work if you had to move the layout (again not that big of a concern). Has anyone used something like this? Am I thinking about this incorrectly?

Finally, how do you guys wire your lights and switch motors? I've read that some people do it directly from the primary bus and other will use an old discarded AC power supply and wire that up. I'm asking in your experience what is the best method to plan for?

I've been reading a lot about how to properly setup a turn out how to wire the motor so you can have an LED light turn green / red / etc. depending on direction and then laying out a yard and maybe I'm over complicating it for myself.

If possible, if you are making a suggestion can you please link to the material you are suggesting? my terminology when it comes to wiring / etc. is not very good.
 

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I cannot answer all your questions, but I can answer one (I think). When you run DCC for the tracks, it is actually an AC electric circuit. We think of it and treat it as DC because the signals are polarized and must be kept separated to prevent shorts. But your turnout motors and lighting are all DC circuits. That requires a different power than the main track bus. I use N gauge Kato unitrack. I am using a Digitrax Zephyr for my DCC control and power and I use the contacts off the original DC power pack that came with my track for the turnout motors. I don't have any lights but I think they require the DC side also.

As for your other questions, I ran a pair of bus wires from the Zephyr and then ran feeds around my track by using their terminal unijoiners connected to the bus. To keep it connected properly, I used red and black wire for the bus and matched the color of the feed wires Kato (blue feed matched black bus and white feed matched red bus).

I have not yet built a sectional layout, but I was researching it for my next layout. I would use a multi-pin quick connect between sections. It would be something like these: Amazon 12 pin disconnects. If you have multiple turnouts on one section, each disconnect gives you 6 total circuits.There are larger connectors, like 25 and 36 pin D connectors used in computers.
 

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You can treat the motors running your turnout points as part of the track system because you can run those turnouts with stationary decoders. Ideally, your NCE system would only run the trains and their decoders, and you'd run your accessories, including lighting and turnout control, with another powered system...separately. But I don't think you HAVE TO. If you have enough power throughput from a suitable power supply, and IF your NCE system can handle the throughput/output of the wall wart powering the NCE, you can run anything, even lights. The lights might need special treatment, of that I'm not positive. When I want to power my structure lights, I use a spare DC power pack.

You needn't downsize each bundle or wires from bus to sub-bus and then to feeders. You can easily retain one gauge for both the bus and the subs, and then use some doorbell or telephone wire for the feeders off of the subs. You might save a few bucks by dropping to 16 gauge, but....I'd just stick with the higher capacity/lower voltage loss over distance by keeping the same gauge of wire until the feeder drops.

If you want to save a few dollars AND STILL prevent entire layout shutdowns when shorts happen now and then, wire a tail-light bulb in series into one of the two wires comprising the sub(s). You'll want an 1156 type auto taillight bulb which will handle at least 2 amps. When it lights up, very brightly, you know you have a short in the section it serves, upstream from itself. But, it sacrifices its filament over time and you can keep the rest of the trains running elsewhere while you reach over and correct the short fault.
 

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Well, your first problem is that you're suffering from information overload, and you're trying to fix it by getting even more information. The problem you're having is that there is no one right answer, or even best solution, and everyone is going to approach the problem a little differently, so instead of gradually mastering s concept, you're bouncing between methods and not learning anything.

Take a complete and total break for 48 hours. Forget everything you think you know. Then forget your fear of error. Making mistakes is the best learning tool available to you.

Now pick ONE source -- ONE book, ONE Youtube channel, or ONE forum member. Follow that process from start to finish. Yes, actually wire your layout. Then, if something doesn't work to your satisfaction, you can tackle that, one problem at a time.

Now, after telling you not to get advice from everyone at once, I'll put my nickel in.
1) There really isn't any significant reason to have bus / subbus / feeder as you contemplate. There is no good reason not to take your feeders directly from the main track bus.
2) The device you link to will work, yes. A terminal strip may work better, though, because you'll have less clutter under your layout.
3) Lights will definitely need their own DC circuit. You can use an old power supply, or just strip the jack off of an old wall wart. Turnout motors can be run either from your DCC set with a stationary decoder, or from a separate power source (which can be the same as your lighting circuit if the watts are low enough. Personally, I have 3 separate circuits. One is the DCC bus, one feeds lights, and one powers 4 Tam Valley Depot Octo III turnout drivers, which in turn drive the servos that move my points. Turnouts are activated by switches on the fascia, which are also powered by the Octos. See the Tam Valley Depot website for more details. Tam Valley Depot
 

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CTvalley is so right. You are letting the big club gurus confuse you with what is valid information but
for huge layouts.

DCC is actually very simple. 2 bus wires to your track from the controller. If you have a fair size layout
use drops from the track to the bus every 6 feet or so. That's it. If you have turnouts controlled by
stationary decoders they'll take power from the track. Otherwise the DCC system powers only the
track. The booster would be needed if you have a number of SOUND locos. If not, your NCE power
cab has all the amps you need.to run 3, 4 or more trains at the same time. Use an old DC power pack
or wall wart putting out around 12 volts DC for non decider turnouts and lights.

Don
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Well, your first problem is that you're suffering from information overload, and you're trying to fix it by getting even more information. The problem you're having is that there is no one right answer, or even best solution, and everyone is going to approach the problem a little differently, so instead of gradually mastering s concept, you're bouncing between methods and not learning anything.

Take a complete and total break for 48 hours. Forget everything you think you know. Then forget your fear of error. Making mistakes is the best learning tool available to you.

Now pick ONE source -- ONE book, ONE Youtube channel, or ONE forum member. Follow that process from start to finish. Yes, actually wire your layout. Then, if something doesn't work to your satisfaction, you can tackle that, one problem at a time.
You did not lead me wrong on the previous layout. I should not have crammed as much track as I did but you live and you learn. You are absolutely correct on the information overload. I wanted to be better prepared this time and wanted to plan out as much as possible but then again if all you do is plan you never do. My goal for this weekend is to finish the benchwork and continue working on the track plan in AnyRail. I mocked up a few on paper but want to get something in AnyRail to get some feedback from the group in regards to operations / etc.

Now, after telling you not to get advice from everyone at once, I'll put my nickel in.
1) There really isn't any significant reason to have bus / subbus / feeder as you contemplate. There is no good reason not to take your feeders directly from the main track bus.
2) The device you link to will work, yes. A terminal strip may work better, though, because you'll have less clutter under your layout.
3) Lights will definitely need their own DC circuit. You can use an old power supply, or just strip the jack off of an old wall wart. Turnout motors can be run either from your DCC set with a stationary decoder, or from a separate power source (which can be the same as your lighting circuit if the watts are low enough. Personally, I have 3 separate circuits. One is the DCC bus, one feeds lights, and one powers 4 Tam Valley Depot Octo III turnout drivers, which in turn drive the servos that move my points. Turnouts are activated by switches on the fascia, which are also powered by the Octos. See the Tam Valley Depot website for more details. Tam Valley Depot
This is good to know. This is the information i'm looking for. Based on this I should be good with something like these... ?

Amazon.com: PCB007 1X 12 Position Power Distribution Board 2 Inputs 2 x 13 Outputs for DC AC Voltage New: Toys & Games

or

30Amp/300V 2x12 Position Terminal Block Distribution Module (Screw Mount): Amazon.com: Industrial & Scientific

High level my bus will run to A & B and out to the next one... positions 1 - 12 would be used as drops to the track.

I would setup something completely different to power up the turnout motors / signals. I'm actually looking at the Tam Valley Depo stuff for the turnouts but I don't see anything on their site for signals. Do you have any setup on your layout or have recommendations?
 

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Well, if you'll take my advice once more, it's to quit working on your benchwork. One of the surest ways to limit what you can do with your layout is to artificially constrain it -- either with less space than you really need, or with big empty areas that you feel the need to fill with track.

Finish your design. All you need to know is the size of the available area. THEN build benchwork to support it.
 

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Well, if you'll take my advice once more, it's to quit working on your benchwork. One of the surest ways to limit what you can do with your layout is to artificially constrain it -- either with less space than you really need, or with big empty areas that you feel the need to fill with track.

Finish your design. All you need to know is the size of the available area. THEN build benchwork to support it.
brob2k1

No wonder your confused!
I agree with CTValley's idea of stepping back, doing something else for a while, and letting your brain reboot. I also agree with his idea expressed here. Plan the track first, then only when you are satisfied with the track plan, plan benchwork to fit that, not a railroad to fit on a 4 x 8, or any other preconceived shape. The only reason benchwork exists is to support the railroad, it should not dictate the design of the railroad. Of course overall available space will be an important factor, but I have seen people wondering "How many 4 X 8s they will need to build their railroad." In my opinion, that's a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. I also agree with your own idea of building a sectional layout.

You mentioned "signals." I'm assuming you mean railroad block signals that are used by real railroads to regulate train movements, not the crossing signals used to warn motorists that a train is approaching a grade crossing.
Well, in my opinion, that is a very complex subject that you should forget about for now. The last thing you need now is to open another big, bad, can of worms to worry about.
Very few model railroads have full-blown, operating, block signal systems. It can be done, and it has been done, but it does raise some major electrical problems. Like a lot of modelers, I like the idea, and want to have working signals someday, but there are a whole lot of other things I need to do first.
Signals can wait, and possibly forever. All I have done so far is to divide the track into insulated blocks and then jumper those blocks on a terminal strip into one big electrical block for the foreseeable future. The block boundaries are there, for possible future use, but that's all.

NOTE: You may want to stop reading here, if you don't want to deal with a lot of confusing stuff about why I wired my track that way, and how model signal systems work. The subject is inherently complicated, and maybe you'd rather not deal with the explanation now. OK, very understandable.


There are several general ways that block signals are wired, and used, on model railroads. Some simple, and some quite complex. Simple signals may be switched from red to green by the operator with an electrical toggle switch. The next step might be to use a commercial signal with a built-in photo sensor that sees a train go by and changes the signal to red for a certain time interval, and later resets it to green. Such photosensors can also be outside the signal itself, perhaps buried under the track.

At this point in our journey toward complexity, we come to the first bit of information an operating block signal system needs to know, "Is there a train in this block, or not?"
That job is done by devices called "block occupancy detectors", and there are several different types The photo sensors already mentioned, can be set up as "IN-OUT" sensors, meaning one sensor is positioned at each end of the block. As a train rolls past either sensor, the signal is changed from green to red. When the train reaches the other sensor, the signal is changed back to green. This system is fairly simple, but it has a serious flaw. The sensors can see that a train, or part of a train, reached the far end of the block, but they can't tell which. If some cars came uncoupled in the middle of the block. The signals can't detect that little fact, and a following train may collide with the dropped cars.

Another form of block occupancy detector (BOD) uses track voltage to detect a locomotive, or lighted car, by sensing the current going through it. One of the bus wires, FOR THAT ONE BLOCK is threaded through a coil on the detector. When the loco enters that block, the current it draws triggers the sensor. If we put a light or a resistor across the wheels of the caboose/ last car then the signal will stay red until both the locomotive, and the caboose, (in other words, the whole train) have left the block. Without the wired last car though, we still couldn't tell that the entire train made it out of the block. ALSO we had to divide our bus wires at the ends of the block, for current detectors to tell the difference between an occupied block, and an empty one. Well, there goes the idea of a continuous power bus for DCC. Hopefully some electrical genius out there will tell me how this can be worked around, but I don't know. So that's why I'm holding off on signals until the rest of the railroad is working reliably. I would think that the block occupancy detectors would need to be photodetectors. or some other type that is completely independent of track voltage. So now I'm confused! o_O

Traction Fan 😕
 
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